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1000TH is Not A Grand Game for Stamkos, Lightning

Steven Stamkos played in his 1000th NHL game tonight against the New York Islanders.  This is a big freaking deal. One thousand games. A grand. This puts him in a tie with Bernie Federko for 378th place for most games played. The NHL says 8,100 players have suited up for at least one game in the league. This means Stamkos has played in more games than 95% of the guys who have played in the NHL. He trails Vinny LeCavalier by 37 for the Lightning franchise record. Sure would be great for the team to bounce back from last night and secure a win for their captain. A victory against the Islanders would truly make this a grand game for their leader. 

Playing the Islanders comes with some obstacles for the Lightning. The Islanders are in a three way battle with the Florida Panthers and Pittsburgh Penguins for the two Wild Card spots. To say they will be in desperation mode is a gross understatement. Both Florida and Pittsburgh play tonight but their games have a 7:00 puck drop. The Lightning-Islanders game starts 30 minutes later. Expect a must win level performance from New York. For Tampa, they have already punched their playoff ticket and now a first round rematch against Toronto awaits. The Lightning are also playing for their leader who has reached a historic milestone. Would his 1000th turn into a grand game for Stamkos and his team?

Can They Bounce Back? 

This is the second game in a back to back for Tampa. They lost last night in New York against the Rangers. Not only did they take a 6-3 loss but the game took its toll physically. Anthony Cirelli, Erik Cernak and Brandon Hagel would be scratched tonight. Staying healthy for the visitors is going to be a premium. On the other side of the ice, it’s a different story. The Islanders are the eighth best team in the Eastern Conference at the moment. They are one point ahead of the Penguins. There is no margin for error for either team. Without a doubt, the Islanders will be scoreboard watching the entire game.

The desperation in the home team was evident from the moment the puck dropped. The Islanders came out battling. At the halfway point of the first period, they had a 10-1 shot advantage. As the first period hit the 10 minute mark, Florida had a 2-0 lead in their game after one period. Meanwhile, Pittsburgh had a 1-0 lead in their game. Knowing these scores added to the Islanders first period determination.

Brian Elliott was in net for the Lightning. He saw more than his share of shots stopping all 13 shots he faced in the first period. If the boys were going to make Stamkos’ 1000th game something memorable, they needed to get on their horses. No way did his team want to lose this game for their captain. Many of the players wore a “Seen Stamkos” shirt from his rookie season in 2008. A win for Tampa would make this important milestone a truly ‘Grand Game’ for Stamkos.

Desperate Measures

The start of the second period seemed to be in the Lightning’s favor; in the first three minutes they outshot the Islanders 4 to 2. Okay, so the difference was minuscule but still evident. This momentum turned out to be short-lived as Adam Pelech scored the game’s first goal for New York. To make matters worse, a few minutes after the Islanders goal, Tanner Jeannot fell awkwardly on the ice. He needed help off the ice and didn’t appear to put any pressure on his right leg. As if that wasn’t enough, then the game seemed to implode for the Lightning. As the Islanders watched the scoreboard, Florida was up 7-1 at the end of the second period. Making this game critical. Pittsburgh was up 2-0 after two, making this game a must win for the Islanders. 

Just as the period was hitting the halfway point New York scored their second goal. After winning a puck battle in the corner, Samuel Bolduc fed Brock Nelson the puck on a platter. Nelson, all alone in front of Elliott, blasted the puck past Moose for a 2-0 Islander lead. Then, the bottom starts to fall out in the next minute. Kyle Palmieri scored 45 seconds after Nelson and just like that it’s 3-0 New York. Tampa on the other hand, is limping to the end of this game. Palmieri had absolutely no Lightning player within five feet of him as he skated freely in the Lightning zone. By the time he snapped the puck, Elliot never saw the puck go over his glove for the goal.

Not Looking Like a Grand Game for Stamkos

Would the Lightning show any life? It’s definitely challenging playing a team that is playing like it’s a Game 7. If the Islanders lose tonight, they are outside looking into the postseason. As the period entered the final five minutes, the Lightning’s Nikita Kucherov scored the Lightning’s first goal.  He took a feed from Brayden Point and snapped the puck past Ilya Sorokin to give the Lightning some life. 

This new found life didn’t last long at all for the Lightning. Pat Maroon was last seen hobbling off the ice near the end of the second period. Couple minutes later, Ryan Pulock scored to make the score 4-1 Islanders. 

Tapping Out 

Entering the final period, not only were the Lightning down 4-1 they were down two forwards, in Jeannot and Maroon. Felt like this game couldn’t end soon enough for the Bolts. To their credit, the Lightning matched the Islanders shot for shot. Both teams registered 14 shots on goal in the final period. 

The difference is that two of the Islanders shots found the back of the net. The Lightning failed to score on any of their shots. That’s how the game ended. A rout by the Islanders to the tune of 6-1 over the Lightning.

Three Stars

  1. Brock Nelson – 1 Goal and 2 assists
  2. Bo Horvat – 1 Goal and 1 assist plus he hit the post twice
  3. Ilya Sorokin – Saved 24 of 25 shots for a .968 save percentage

What’s Next 

Saturday night at 7:00 in Ottawa against the Senators

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